Carb cycling is quickly becoming a popular and more advanced nutritional technique. It’s based around strategically manipulating your carb intake, maximizing the anabolic effects of carbs while removing them when you don’t need them in order to shed extra belly fat.
Logically, carb cycling makes a lot of sense; for example, why would you consume the same amount of carbs on these days:
- Rest days
- Cardio days
- Arm days
- Leg days
As you can clearly see, your body’s carbohydrate needs are different when you perform a high intensity leg session, using advanced methods such as DTP, compared to an arm day, cardio day or rest day.
This is where carb cycling comes into play; rather than just eating the same amount all day, every day, you can strategically place them around your training times over the week and your training schedule.
In this article you will learn how to use carb cycling to maximize your results, while dodging the detrimental effects of taking too many carbs at the wrong times.
The Benefits of Carb Cycling
As mentioned, carb cycling can provide some unique benefits that a typical diet may be unable to provide.
One of the first benefits for fat loss is the strategic use of lower carbs to burn fat while you rest, while still maintaining performance around the workout. This is one major downside to low-carb diets, while it may be good for fat loss, people’s gym performance and recovery after training tends to decline.
However, by ditching the carbs away from the workout, you can minimize insulin levels and up regulate your fat burning capabilities. This includes an increased use of fatty acids for fuel during the day, when you don’t necessarily need a ton of carbohydrates to sit at your office computer.
Additionally, lower carb periods can enhance your mitochondria function, which acts as the powerhouse of your cell and can help you burn and utilize more energy, more efficiently. Finally, the reduction in carbs can also lead to an increase in your fat burning hormones, including growth hormone and ephedrine.
In addition to the benefits of the lower carb periods helping you shed body fat, let’s not forget the other side of the equation, which is the higher carb periods helping you add muscle, perform better and recover from your workouts.
This is where the higher carb periods, around the workout or intense training days shine. Firstly, a higher carb intake can help you train harder, for longer, which will not only burn more calories and fat, it will also let you add or preserve more lean muscle.
In addition to performance, recovery is often compromised when dieting. Therefore the extra carbs on workout days and after the individual workout can help reduce cortisol, while increasing insulin levels and muscle protein synthesis.
As you can see, carbohydrate manipulation can provide numerous benefits and allows you to reap the benefits, without the negatives, of one strict low or high carb diet.
How to Use Carb Cycling
As discussed, the basic principles of carb cycling are fairly simple:
1. Feed your body carbs when it will use and burn them.
2. Limit your carb intake when your body doesn’t need them.
Within a day, this may be based on your training session and look something like this:
Breakfast: Lower carb, higher fat and protein meal.
Lunch: Lower carb, higher fat and protein meal.
Afternoon Pre-Workout meal: Higher carb, high protein and lower fat meal.
Post Workout Meal: Higher carb, high protein and lower fat meal.
Pre-bed: Slow digesting protein such as Kasein
Within a week, you can also tailor it based on training days, training intensity and exercise type. Here’s another example:
Now you have a better idea of when to consume the carbs, here’s an overview of some of the best and healthiest sources:
- Rice or similar
- Potato and sweet potato
- 100% Sprouted Whole grains
Now you’ve become a carb cycling expert, the next step is to give it a go and implement it into your regime. If you are trying to shred fat, dropping carbs out when they are not needed can quickly help you lose weight, while also still providing you with a boost for your workouts.